CAMP HILL, Pa. (AP) -- Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum says he didn't always understand conservatives' frustration with Washington but says he comprehends it now.
Santorum was Pennsylvania's junior senator when he endorsed moderate incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter over conservative Pat Toomey in the 2004 GOP primary. The pick fueled conservative discontent, contributing to Santorum's defeat in his reelection bid two years later.
Santorum has told Saturday's Pennsylvania Leadership Conference in Camp Hill that the 2006 loss helped him grasp conservatives' frustration with government.
The former senator said he used to think Pennsylvanians didn't understand how business was done in Washington. He says, "In a sense, I didn't understand."
Santorum points to his consistent, social conservative stances to separate himself from the GOP presidential field, saying he offers an alternative to President Barack Obama.